Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Big Joe Turner

  • His Greatest Recordings [Atco, 1971]
  • Greatest Hits [Atlantic, 1987]
  • Joe Turner's Blues [Topaz, 1998] A-
  • The Very Best of Big Joe Turner [Rhino, 1998] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

His Greatest Recordings [Atco, 1971]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Greatest Hits [Atlantic, 1987]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Joe Turner's Blues [Topaz, 1998]
Even by Kansas City standards, Turner was pretty primal. The aspiring urbanity of Jimmy Rushing and Jimmy Witherspoon didn't suit him--he's a whale out of water in the big-band settings his Rhino triple is forever upgrading to. Here he hollers and moans over boogie-woogie piano--especially Pete Johnson, but also, and differently, Meade Lux Lewis, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Albert Ammons, even Art Tatum--and combos playing de facto jump blues. Broke as the Ten Commandments or taking jockey lessons because he ain't no monkey man, he's a country bluesman with a jazzman's phrasing and a bad mother fuyer's certainty of his own endangered prerogatives. A-

The Very Best of Big Joe Turner [Rhino, 1998]
Atlantic was the site of Turner's "dumbing down," saith Jim "James" Miller, by which he means it's where the noble shouter streamlined, speeded up, and otherwise refused to act his age. The sound on this strictly hit-bound single-disc is one Turner devised himself in self-produced New Orleans sessions featuring a band-not-combo whose single-minded unison will pass for first r&b and then rock and roll. It's perfected with "Shake, Rattle and Roll," cut in New York with Atlantic sharpsters including drummer Connie Kay, whose sock means even more to the song than the sun shining through Jesse Stone's lyric. Until the niche marketers catch up with him, this fat (fat) 43-year-old is set to flip, flop, and fly all over America's teenaged heart. A